(1/5) TW: Suicide attempt and sexual harassment.
“As a child, I’d fight with my sisters to play with their dolls. After school, I’d run home and wrap myself in Ama’s kira. The whole family scolded me for acting like a girl but I couldn’t stop. At school, my principal made me stand in front of the assembly as punishment for being friends with girls. She asked, ‘Do you want to get someone pregnant?’ I was only in class 2. I lost most of my friends after that. From then onwards, I tried my best to act like a boy, but all I wanted to do was play with my girl friends. At 13, I swallowed a bunch of pills while home alone. It didn’t kill me but I was sick for days. Whenever a transgender character appeared on the TV, my sisters would make fun of me and say ‘that’s you!’ I’d pretend to laugh with them but I was consumed by shame. School got harder as I grew up. I once tried to keep my hair long but the teachers cut it off in an embarrassing manner. I was punished for wearing my gho lower than my knees. I was sent to a boarding school in class 7, and saw that my nightmares had only just begun. The boys competed to sleep with me. They’d threaten to forcefully strip me so they could find out what sex I was. It only took me a week to decide to run away from there. A teacher who was related to me came to check on me but I couldn’t tell anyone how horrific that one week had been. When I reached class 9, I decided that it’d only get worse. Despite my family’s million efforts to stop me, I dropped out of school.”
Humans of Thimphu with Lhak-Sam, Bhutan Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS BNP+
celebrates the stories of transgender people and their fight for identity. #TransDayofVisibility
(2/5) “I came to Thimphu after convincing my family to let me leave school. I told them I’d join the royal dancers to make them agree. I almost stuck with it, but opted out when I was asked to join mask dancing for men. Away from everyone I knew, I found a little freedom for the first time in my life. I tried on light makeup and kept my hair longer. But the thought of going out in public like that scared me. What would people say? Would they stare? After 2 years of hiding, I was back home, and I was visited by 2 trans women. They were accompanied by few officials from the Ministry of Health and I was terrified. I thought they had come to arrest me. The neighbours jeered, “Ugyen has visitors of her kind.” I’d seen these women—Dechen and Chencho—on TV. It turned out they’d come to talk to me. They left after hours of conversation, and I felt like a different person. They truly understood me. I came back to Thimphu on the pretext of babysitting my brother’s kids. During my free time, I met them again. A few others joined us and our conversations revealed how similar our problems were. I admired how they were able to be open about their gender identity. They took me to Lhak-Sam where I met people whose problems were similar to us in different ways. I was invited to attend the World AIDS day celebration at Gelephu, and I felt a sense of belonging. Right then I knew that I could either choose to live my whole life in fear or liberate myself and help others in the process. Fear and anxiety crippled me the night before the trip but I packed my bag anyway. My mother asked me to stay but I told her it was important for me to go. I left the house secretly at 4 am. Once we got to Gelephu for the celebration, Lhak-Sam’s intern from the US, Christina, paid for my visit to a hair salon, while Dechen and Chencho dressed me and did my make-up. I felt so happy, I wanted to cry. We’d prepared 2 dance performances for the event and I was excited. But before I could perform I saw my elder brother there. We stared at each other in complete shock.”
Humans of Thimphu with Lhak-Sam, Bhutan Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS BNP+
stands in solidarity with the transgender community and hopes for a world free of discrimination and prejudice towards the trans-community. #TransDayofVisibility
(3/5) “I didn’t know what to do. Unable to face him, I ran away after the first performance. Everyone was looking for me while I downed a bottle of whiskey and walked around as if nothing had happened. The next day, he came to me and said, “Ugyen, I need to talk to you.” He took me to his house at Gelephu and said to me, “We always knew about you. But why did you have to cause your family so much shame?” He cried like a child. I’d been drinking again so I was able to hold my ground. I could’ve never done it sober. I asked him to take me back to my friends and he did. I internalised the belief that I brought shame to my family, and I could never undo that. My friends tried to take me around to cheer me up but it didn’t help. The memory of him crying saddened me deeply. All my siblings found out about it after that. They said they were disgusted and broke all ties with me. My sisters and their husbands told Ama to disown me by throwing me out of the house. I couldn’t go back home so I stayed in Thimphu and opened a small shop to survive. There was no financial or emotional support from my family. I ran the shop during the day and sold thukpa on the streets after parties. Ama did secretly send me some money. The fact that she still loved me kept me going. I made new transgender friends. Some had nowhere to live and I invited them to live with me. They helped me out with my shop and business. They became my new family. I also met a man who was kind and loving. We dated for a while but then he cheated on me with another woman. He said that he wanted kids which was impossible with me. I cut him off completely after that. He tried to contact me and said sorry for what he’d said but it was only the truth. Even cisgender couples break up when they’re childless.”
Humans of Thimphu with Lhak-Sam, Bhutan Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS BNP+
celebrates the trans-people in our community who teach us the importance of kindness and support. We salute their unwavering resilience. #TransDayofVisibility
(4/5) “Transgender issues cannot be solved on their own. We need people who can brave all odds and stand to advocate. I, along with a few of my LGBTIQ friends, decided to feature on national television and talk about the issues we faced. Starting with HIV and safe sex practices to stigma and discrimination, we did a series of interviews and were featured in documentaries. That brought about a lot of awareness, and the transgender community saw an outpour of support from the public. I foresaw irreparable damage to my relationship with my family. They had not spoken with me for years, and I hoped to reconcile someday. But this was greater than my personal problems. Transgender issues needed to be highlighted and I had to be the voice for the voiceless. Surprisingly, what happened was the complete opposite of what I’d feared. After seeing me on TV, they started to come around, asking for forgiveness for having failed to understand me. I was overwhelmed by this sudden turn of events. I’d never imagined that I could have their support again. My family started to accept me as a daughter and a sister, and all my nieces and nephews were trained to call me their aunt. I started going to the lochoes every year and started to wear a kira despite being scared of raised eyebrows in my village.”
Humans of Thimphu with Lhak-Sam, Bhutan Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS BNP+
celebrates the altruism of LGBTIQ advocates whose voices inspire a million changes in society. #TransDayofVisibility
(5/5) “Lives of transgender people almost never gets easier. Not even when their families accept them fully. We always have problems that need attention. For instance, the issues I faced in school still remain the same. We are still teased and taunted, and many transgender people drop out because of it. Ever since my first meeting with Dechen and Chencho, I knew I had to be someone who’d look after and support others like me. I’ve made sure to be an active part of the community and advocate as much as I can. I’ve been to advocacy and capacity-building meetings and travelled to many countries. I’m also the only trans woman on hormone therapy as of now. It is an expensive treatment, with 3 months’ worth of pills costing around Nu. 30,000, and many cannot afford it. It’s also risky because there aren’t any medical specialists for this in our country. But I have friends in the health sector who’ve helped me get in touch with doctors overseas who recommend me the pills. I’ve been an outreach worker in Lhak-Sam for almost 5 years and I advocate for causes from trans rights to HIV and LGBTQ rights. I have come a long way, from being a scared little boy to a proud trans-woman. It does get better. I believe in it now.”

On the International Transgender Day of visibility 2021, Humans of Thimphu in collaboration with Lhak-Sam, Bhutan Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS BNP+ brings awareness on the struggles of the trans-community to help created a world where transgender people are able to live with equal dignity and pride. #TransDayofVisibility #equalityforall #justiceforthepeople #freesociety

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